Yesterday I fare-welled a man whom I described as often playing the role of a heyoka to myself and others. In ancient societies, the heyoka (or similar) held a prominent position. Their role was to oppose the norm. This was visually reinforced by various means, such as wearing summer clothes in winter and winter clothes in summer. Their true value was in their capacity to question common wisdom and put an alternative view. In tribal councils, this ensured that all points of view, including the extreme and bizarre, were considered before advancing a decision. Jesters in European medieval courts played a similar role and were close confidantes to the ruling nobles.
I have appreciated the various heyokas in my life. I don’t seek them out, they somehow find me. As a habitual devil’s advocate, I sometimes find myself playing this role. I remember a colleague lamenting the time a committee he was chairing took in coming to a decision.
I reminded him it was a matter that required careful discernment.
He replied “I like that.”
Next time we met, I asked, “How is it going?”
“Still discerning,” he replied.
“Nah, ” I said, “Now it’s procrastination!”
Some of my most effective heyokas have been neuro-diverse. They have often carried a society imposed stigma for “being different,” simply because they see the world through a different lens, or are not equipped with the social graces. I have lost count of the number of times over several decades of community work in ministry that they have afforded me a fresh way of looking at a problem and eventually finding a solution.
Welcome heyokas in your daily walk. They carry treasures untold!